Best Pots and Pans for Small Spaces

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2010 • all rights reserved

I love my nesting pans -- wonderful heavy pans that cook evenly. The fact that they take up so much less space is a double bonus!
What are the best pots and pans for a boat or any small kitchen?  Whatever cookware you get, this is something that you’ll use everyday and, outside of your galley appliances such as the refrigerator and stove, will probably be the most expensive bit of galley gear you’ll buy.  You want to get it right the first time.

Magma Nestable Cookware

I have always used and recommended the Magma Nestable Cookware Sets (shown above).  The “standard” set comes with 10 pieces (5 pans, 2 lids, 2 handles and a bungee) in several varieties: stainless, non-stick ceramic, non-stick Teflon and stainless that’s designed for induction stoves. Most of these have a stainless exterior although there is also a gorgeous blue exterior available on some. There is also a 7-piece stainless set.

More recently (October 2015), I saw a similar set from Galleyware. It appears to have similar heavy bottoms, nests and has good locking handles, but I have not used it. The prices are quite good and they throw in plastic storage lids for the sets. See them here.

I used an earlier non-stick version of the 10-piece Magma set for six years aboard Que Tal and loved it.  It meets all my criteria for great boat cookware.  That set stayed on the boat when we sold her.  When we moved ashore and into a tiny house, I purchased the Magma 7-piece starter set which I also loved. I have not used the ceramic nonstick set — one reader reported that they got it and loved it. If you’re thinking of getting the stainless pans, read how you can make them nonstick here.

  • Useful Pan Sizes. In 6 years, I never felt the need for another size pan.  This set includes a 1-1/2-, 2-, and 3-quart size sauce pan, with a 5-quart stock pot and a 9-1/2 inch frying pan.  For 2 people living aboard, and occasional guests and pitch in dinners, I never needed anything else.  The two lids each work with several of the pans, and on the few occasions that I needed a third lid I just used a piece of aluminum foil.  Another consideration is that these sizes of pans will fit in almost any pot restraints (if your stove is particularly small, you may want to measure).
  • Easily Stowed. Pans can take an inordinate amount of space in a boat kitchen.  These take up a space about 12 inches by 12 inches by 6 inches high, due to the nesting design and the fact that the handles are removable.
  • Removable Handles. Those removable handles actually do several things for this set — they make it so that the pans nest together much more tightly so that they take less space; they make it so that the pans can be used in the oven as well as on the stovetop; and they make the pans more suitable for use as serving dishes (for example, the sauce pans make nice salad bowls if the handles aren’t attached).  When needed, the handles attach securely, so that you’re not afraid of spilling hot food.  Many cheaper sets have “fold down” handles that tend to “fall down” next to the burner and get VERY hot in use — I really don’t like those!
  • Multi-Use Set. If your space is really limited (and whose isn’t in a galley), this set can serve as your mixing bowls, stovetop cookware, baking pans and serving dishes.  For our first three years aboard Que Tal, this was my “one and only” set and it worked fine for everything I made — bread, casseroles, brownies and more.  Eventually I added a few more baking pans and serving dishes, but this was a great starting point.
  • High Quality Pans. Many nesting “camping” pans are thin metal, prone to hot spots that can scorch your food.  These aren’t.  They are heavy-duty stainless with triple-clad bottoms.  There’s less chance of hot spots and the stainless won’t rust or react with acidic foods the way many cheaper aluminum pans will.
  • Non-Stick or Not? I  had the non-stick set on Que Tal and liked it because it was a snap to clean up.  Now I have the regular set and I seasoned the pans so that they are almost non-stick.  The Magma Non-Stick set is high-quality non-stick and very scratch resistant, but it’s a little harder to use them as your mixing bowls, as the silicone mixing spoons aren’t as satisfactory as heavier duty ones.

All the Magma sets are available on Amazon and they have the best prices that I know of. Sometimes there is more than one listing for an identical set; in that case, I tried to find the least expensive listing:

Whichever set you get, I think you’ll be happy!

A quick story. Years ago, I bought a cheap nesting pan set for camping — it cost about $20 and I figured I could live with it for a week at a time.  And every trip we took, I was frustrated because my food would scorch, the pans dented easily and the handles weren’t really usable.

When we moved aboard Que Tal, I briefly thought of taking that set.  We were spending money left and right to outfit the boat, and I already had those pans.  I even went so far as to take the pans to the boat and use them for a week.  That made up my mind.  I can’t tell you how glad I am that I bought a better set.  They really are worth it, particularly if you’re going to be spending more than just an occasional day on the boat.

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Comments

  1. You might want to check the MANY health concerns with non stick cookware. for a boat a good one is Fagor 16-pc. Cookware Set.

    Cheers

    Mike

    • Carolyn Shearlock says:

      I know that some people have concerns with nonstick cookware, but I’ll say that I don’t have a problem with it as long it’s high quality nonstick — the stuff that doesn’t peel off and put particles in your food.

      For those who don’t want nonstick, the Magma set comes in a regular version as well, with the same heavy-duty stainless and removable handles.

      Unfortunately, the Fagor 16-piece set seems to have been discontinued but if it becomes available, I’ll post a link.

      UPDATE: I just got an e-mail from the owner of Galleyware — they bought a limited number of the Fagor 16-pc. Multifunctional Cookware sets that were privately branded for Rapid Chef as a closeout special. FURTHER UPDATE 4/26/12: These have all been sold and no more are available.

      — Carolyn

  2. Hi Carolyn,

    The main concern with nonstick teflon is actually the harmful particles and gases it emits when heated. So it the quality doesn’t matter. All nonstick teflon is dangerous when you breath the vapours!

    If Fagor is not available you can look for Rapid Chef cookware.

    Cheers,

    Mike

    • Carolyn Shearlock says:

      If you have concerns, by all means opt for non-coated stainless pans. However, neither the FDA nor the EPA believes there are problems with nonstick pans in normal use and the Consumer Products Safety Commission has rejected petitions for a warning label on nonstick pans, according to the DuPont website.

      I knew when I recommended nonstick pans that some people would not like nonstick, and that’s why I offered the plain set as an alternative. The 16-piece Rapid Chef (privately branded version of Fagor) set is nice, but one of the frying pans does have a nonstick coating. So I’ll stick with recommending the regular Magma set for those who don’t want to use nonstick coatings.

      –Carolyn

      UPDATE: I just got an e-mail from the owner of Galleyware — they bought a limited number of the Fagor 16-pc. Multifunctional Cookware sets that were privately branded for Rapid Chef as a closeout special. FURTHER UPDATE 4/26/12: These have all been sold and no more are available.

  3. My biggest issue with the nestable sets is the stability of the handles. I have yet to use a set (and as a delivery skipper I handle a lot of disparate cookware) that feels as stable as real cookware. On Auspicious I still use the Farberware cookware I bought when I graduated from college, a Kuhn-Rikon pressure cooker, a Swiss-Diamond deep skillet and some odds and ends of conventional saute pans.

  4. Where is a good place to get them.

  5. Hi Yvonne! The links in the article (where it’s in red or you can click on the photo) are to Amazon, which is where I’ve seen BY FAR the best price. For the Fagor set, the link in red will take you to Galleyware.com which is the only place that is still selling them. Enjoy!

  6. Thanks

  7. Hi Carolyn,

    Really enjoying your site – thanks for this collection of thoughts and ideas!

    One thing I have to disagree on is your concern that stainless takes more effort to clean and uses more water. A good quality stainless set with heavy bottoms (I have Lagostina) is remarkably easy and fast to clean. I have one non-stick pan and I find I spend more time and water trying to remove the oily layer from this pan than to clean my stainless pans.

    Kind regards,
    Katia

  8. Karen on s/v Siesta says:

    I bought a Galleyware nesting cookware set 2 years ago which I have been using daily. I found out the hard way NOT to submerge the removable handles in water or even rinse in running water. The springs rusted out in 6 months. Luckily, replacements were available via the Galleyware website for a fair price…around $11 each.

    • Carolyn Shearlock says:

      Thanks for the head’s up! I’m positive that I washed the Magma handles many times and never had a problem.

      I asked Karen how the replacement handles were doing — here’s her reply:

      Carolyn, I have had the replacement handles for about 18 months now and they are still working like new. Of course we only wipe the handles with a damp cloth now!

  9. Jen on s/v Lyra says:

    I’ve lived aboard for almost 8 years total now, cruising for part of that (not enough!) and here are my loves for galley cooking-
    Le Creuset saucepans and dutch oven. I’ve been using them for years and I love them. Expensive, but they will probably outlast the boat. I like them because they cook beautifully with a nice, even heat. The ceramic coating is fairly non-stick without being fussy with utensils and no chemical worries. Since they are cast iron, they’re heavy, but I like that because they are very stable when cooking underway.
    I also love my cast iron skillet and use it every day. If they are well taken care of and used regularly, cast iron skillets are very non stick.
    We do have one non-stick skillet which we really only use for low-heat stuff like eggs. It’s a high-quality one made by Vollrath.

    • gene koblick says:

      my wife ,Mary and I lived 8 years aboard our 32′ sloop, TPIII, having owned 3 quality Italian restaurants, I tried a whole variety of s/s cook ware aboard. Finally went back to our first love. Cast Iron, both direct and French style. Found it easy to clean ,excellent ,heat control. No regrets.

  10. Hi Carolyn, I gave the Magma nesting regular cookware set to my partner Ian for Christmas. He loves to cook and I love to eat so it is a match made in Heaven! We both enjoy using this cookware, and because we sail a 21 foot trailable yacht, the space it takes up is minimal. We will be moving on to a keeler in about a year and the cookware will go with us.Initially I was hesitant to trust the handles, but they are fine. Thanks for the heads up!

    Marie

  11. Another benefit to the Magma sets is that you can get replacement parts from Magma. We originally bought the 9 piece set (no large cover) and added the cover later. We damaged the frying pan and were able to buy another.

  12. Mary Lightfine says:

    Thanks so much for your blog with loads of info. I think I read it all! We have traveled the world by plane and just got a 9M Catalac (29.3 ft catamaran). My husband and I plan on cruising for weeks or more at a time. We love traveling, cooking, sailing and eating. I found your information and reader comments very helpful. Just ordered a magma starter set but will also bring a 10 inch cast iron skillet as I find this is more non-stick than Teflon, it can got from stove top to oven easily and I use one every day at home. Iron is also good for your health as some minerals from the cooking utensils do leach into the food.

  13. Love my pans, bought them for Ian for Christmas ‘cos I wanted them so much!!!!!!!

  14. 😉

  15. I just got mine and love them already. I think I’ll order another set for home.

  16. Ann Snider on Facebook says:

    I have them on my Amazon wishlist so that maybe someday!! I went through our pots on the boat and they just take up so much space!! If I could pare down to this, I’d have room in that drawer for the baking pans too.

  17. I’ve just discovered that CUISINART makes a nesting set called the “stowaway” or “stow-8.” Has the heavy bottom like their other pans, just has removable handles.

    I’m going to give ’em a try. If they’re anything like my CUISINART pans at home, they will be ‘da bomb.’ My home pans, albeit not non-stick, still clean pretty easily and they cook so very well and evenly.

    More as it develops,
    tami

  18. I bought the non-stick Magma set in May 2011 at a very good price (best I’ve seen) from Hodgesmarine.com – they sell many items like marine electronics at the best prices in most cases…

    Check out my website – http://www.svsecondwind.jimdo.com – for other products I’ve found for my refit of my Cal 35 MkII…

    Fair Winds!

  19. Kim Burke says:

    I purchased the magma stainless nesting pans I know there must be a learning curve with cooking with stainless pans. I’ve tried different oils and making sure the pan is hot before adding food. No matter what I try, everything I cook in the skillet sticks and creates a cleaning nightmare. I want to love my pans! Any suggestions?

    • To make a stainless skillet nonstick, you need to season it. First you have to clean it perfectly — so you can’t feel anything when you run a finger over it. Then add a bit of high-smoking-point oil such as canola (many also say to add salt but I never have) and heat the pan until the oil starts smoking. Turn the burner off and let the pan cool, then pour the oil out. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel. From now on, try to just rinse the pan and not use soap on it unless you really have to. If you ever have to use a scrubby on it, you’ll have to re-season the pan as really scrubbing it (or using cleanser) will remove the seasoning. If you use soap in washing it (which I end up doing maybe half the time), you’ll have to periodically re-season the pan — there’s no set timetable, just whenever you notice problems.

      Here’s a YouTube video that is almost exactly the way I do it:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1376ITxF1Oc

  20. These are on my wish list

  21. Love these pans. Have the non-stick ones. Nothing sticks and have been using for 7 years.

  22. I have a set of stainless Baccarat pots, a Fagor pressure cooker and a non stick wok. Perfect for the 2 of us. I did have my cast iron dutch oven too, but I wasn’t using it much so I have taken it off the boat. I use the wok nearly every day.

  23. D and Don svsoutherncross says:

    You mentioned you have an expensive titanium non stick skillet, but no other mention is made. I got given one, a Woll square, with lid, with removable handle and find it is marvelous and now my “go-to” pan. What are your thoughts?

    D

  24. I got a set of Ezistore Stackable 10pc Stainless Steel Cookset through Target and I really like them. They are nesting, have the thicker bottoms and sturdy handles. More like nice cookware at home.

  25. Here’s another possibility and is the set we have aboard.

    Stansport 7-piece nesting pans

    They are quite hefty, stainless, and have the heavy duty bottoms. My only complaints with the set is it only comes with 1 handle, 1 lid, and doesn’t have any means to lock everything together.

    I’ve read that if call the manufacturer asking to buy another handle they will just send you one but I haven’t confirmed that.

    They also sell cast iron pots which I’ve heard of people using on board as well. I don’t have any of the cast iron so I can’t comment on the quality.

  26. Hi Carolyn! Thank you for the suggestion, I have ordered the Magma non-stick set for our boat. I have been trying to locate a full list of galley equipment that you have onboard, does that exist?

    • No, I haven’t written one up, mainly because everyone has different preferences and needs (a single weekender vs. a family going around the world have really different needs). You can look at the things I’ve written about in Outfitting and I’ve put a list of the essentials in New and Overwhelmed?

      P.S. I think you’re going to love the Magma pans!

  27. Hi! I was wondering if you had any insight on the pluses and minuses of this set over the regular set of the magma pans?

    Magma 10-piece Nesting Set with Ceramic Non-Stick

    I don’t know anything about ceramic pots and pans!

    Thanks!
    April

    • Hi April!

      I’ve heard that the Magma Ceramic Pans are really, really nice — they were out of stock for a while and I’m glad to see they’re back. I don’t have a set, although I’ve used other ceramic pans at my brother and sister-in-law’s house (they foodies) and was impressed by how nicely non-stick they were and supposedly no nasty chemicals in the ceramic.

      • Hi Carolyn, Thank you for getting back to me! I have been doing more reading about them today too. We are going to be living aboard our boat, and I’m worried they will crack if they fall or are dropped. Other then that I can’t find anyone saying anything negative about them. After using your family’s pans would you imagine that being a problem on the boat?
        April

        • I doubt it IF you keep something soft between the pans in the locker — that’s when I found the most damage to anything occured. I got some discounted fleece at a fabric store and cut it into squares, then used the squares between pans (also to quiet various things).

          Funny but I was just about to call my bro when I saw your note, so I asked him if they’d ever had one crack. He said they’ve had the pans about 7 years now and no cracks yet, and the big one has been dropped in the sink a couple of times.

          Since the Magma set is stainless under the ceramic, there wouldn’t be anything bad that could migrate from the metal if the ceramic did crack so the pan would still be usable (always a concern when on a boat and possibly in a remote location).

          Unfortunately, the Magma ceramic pans are new enough that I don’t think anyone’s really had enough long term experience to say how they’ll hold up (that is, no cracking) over the long term. I tend to think they’ll be okay (the other Magma pans I’ve had have been really high quality) but that’s not a guarantee.

  28. LaMarr Harding says:

    I use a Kuhn-Rikon pressure cooker that has a shallow frying pan shape, and a 1950’s Revere Ware copper bottom 2 quart saucepan with double boiler insert and lid, and a 8 quart clad bottom stainless blancher. These three pans seem to fill all my stove top cooking needs.

  29. Kathe Spidell says:

    Carolyn,
    I had to write you and share my experience with the Magma CERAMICA cookware. I just received it 2 days ago. Lovingly hand wash and dried, re packed using the cardboard in between. Pulled out the stockpot for bean soup, found scratches in the finish around the edge.

  30. Hi Carolyn. I have been enjoying your site for a while now but now is when our dream is becoming a reality. Thanks for putting so much time and effort for others to enjoy and save time. Boating is very new to us ……. do you happen to have a list of “must have” for kitchen? I guess that as soon as we get that boat we’ll be ready and packed to go away at least for a weekend!!!!! …….probably to the keys? Getting a 34ft carver. Yeiiiiiiii.

  31. Mac Zimmerman says:

    Hi Carolyn,

    Hi! I’ve been looking at several “nesting” cookware sets, i.e. Magma, Cristel and Galleyware, and was wondering if you’ve had a chance to use each and what your thoughts are? I know you’ve used the Magma sets and the Galleyware site pointed out that you were at the Annapolis Boat Show and was introduced to their set this year. Cristel is pretty expensive, but I’m sure good. Like everyone else with VERY limited space, I’m looking for a small footprint, EASY one handed handle attachment/detachment and food being cooked evenly. I’m a horrible cook and need all the help I can get! Thank you!

    • I have used Magmas extensively (for years) — both the non-stick and the 7-piece stainless — and really like them. Very heavy to cook evenly and have never had a problem with the handles. I’ve seen the Galleyware ones and they look good and are less expensive, but I have NOT used them (i’m hoping that they come out with a smaller set as I have a tiny stove and almost all my pans are too big for it). I haven’t seen the Cristel but can’t imagine that they’re SO much better as to justify the price — especially as I didn’t have any complaints about the Magmas!

  32. Cyndi Wellington says:

    Carolyn ~ I am torn between ordering a Galleyware cookware set, or, Magma ~ for our boat…..Camping World is running a great sale on a 7-piece Magma set ~ however, I have been reading reviews and, now cannot make up my mind!!!😱

    Wondering, just which is the “best” and, most durable set?

    I would appreciate hearing your own, personal opinion! Thanks!

    • I’ve used two different sets and loved them; I saw the Galleymate sets at the Annapolis Show and they looked great, but I have not actually used them. I think that either one will serve you really well and that both are probably equally durable.

  33. I’m VERY fussy on pots and pans and was a little nervous when my hubby gave me a set of magma’s as a gift (ceramic non stick). I’m literally eating my perfectly cooked words now. They are the BEST pans in my drawer, not even because they nest, just simply great pans. Don’t overheat though, which is great, low gas usage 😉 I’m desperate now for the strainer and wok!

  34. I don’t even have a boat yet, and I’m thinking of snagging a set of these!

  35. Absolutely- they don’t need to be on a boat and easy to transport.

  36. Love nesting clad pots for nesting and space saving. Hate cooking with them

  37. Laurel Rynd says:

    I have the Galley Ware set that has a non-stick skillet/saute pan and the rest are stainless. Love them! This way you don’t have to worry about scratching non-stick when you’re cooking something that needs lots of stirring.

  38. I LOVE my nesting pans. I have the Magma stainless steel. I was nervous about that decision because I always used nonstick in our land homes, but it was a great decision. They clean up so well. I keep one nonstick pan for things like eggs and potatoes o’brien. But they are great for everything else. Also, they fit well on my three burner stove.

  39. Since I have limited storage space on our 30′ coastal cruiser the Magma nesting pans were my only option for a full set of pans. I love them and purchased the strainer and nonstick omelet (wok) to complete the set. I keep looking at the set of pans I have at my dirt home and seriously considering replacing them with another set of Nesting Magma pans.

  40. Just purchased a set of GalleyWare from Defender.com as they are running a Memorial Day sale right now…on Magma also. http://defender.com

  41. I love my magmas! More pans than I need, so some of them came home. I got the induction-compatible stainless. I have a portable induction cooktop for dockside use and a propane stove for when we are out and about. I followed Carolyn’s excellent suggestions for seasoning them.

  42. i love my pans,put some towels between ,no scratching!

  43. I LOVE my Magma nest pots!! They are the best!!!

  44. We love ours!

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